Atwater's self-serving pledge | Jan. 26, editorial
Don't add to taxpayers' burden
In your editorial about my commitment to protect Florida taxpayers, you attacked my pledge to balance Florida's budget without tax increases as "self-serving."
This declaration was not about me. It was about assuring the Floridians who are struggling to buy groceries, pay the mortgage, and keep their families safe that state leaders recognize their shoulders are burdened enough. This assurance also serves small business owners who, through sacrifice, risk-taking and courage, will create jobs and give Florida a new, innovation-based economy.
The editorial missed the most important part of my pledge to taxpayers: I am starting the budget process from scratch.
As I speak with Floridians young and old, from every background and walk of life, I ask if they are confident in their financial capacity to begin spending more. Are they feeling a "recovery"? Is their job safe and income stable? Almost universally I hear "no" in reply.
Under the pressure of the current economic realities, Florida families are choosing between what is desired and what is required. I intend to apply the same standard to our state budget. Yes, we can create a budget that covers the essential services for the people of our great state. But, no, we cannot continue with business as usual. Taxpayers deserve better.
In your editorial you explain that you would fund bigger government by "eliminating sales tax exemptions" and "collecting sales tax on Internet sales." In plain language, you are advocating tax increases.
And while you claim that these serve "special interests," these tax increases would come right out of the pockets of hardworking people in this state who are already struggling, and further hinder the economic recovery we so desperately need.
I am committed to producing a responsibly balanced budget that provides critical services today and prepares for tomorrow without further burdening Florida's taxpayers.
Jeff Atwater, president, Florida Senate
Compassion vs. corruption | Jan. 22
We should be more careful with foreign aid money
Looking at the numbers regarding U.S. aid to foreign countries, it seems we need to rethink our aid policy. We've pumped $2.6 billion into Haiti alone since 1990, and the people still don't have adequate roads, schools or hospitals. Only half have clean drinking water, a third have no sanitary facilities and only 10 percent have electricity. All of the foregoing hindered them in their time of need, and hindered us as well from helping them.
Where is all this money going? Obviously not where it is intended. If we are going to give our money away, it should be on our terms, and we should have people on the ground making sure it goes where it is needed, not into corrupt politicians' pockets. There needs to be accountability of taxpayers' money. This is not unreasonable; it's only fair and common sense.
Our own stimulus plan is a good example of what happens when money is handed out without clear-cut rules and regulations in place. The same problem exists with our aid monies; we need to fix that. We are now financially stressed right here at home. We need to ensure that financial aid is wisely and efficiently allocated.
Americans are the most generous people out there. We just need to be more responsible with our generosity.
Dan McKenna, Sun City Center
A big win for Florida | Jan. 29, editorial
What are we getting into?
Your editorial trumpeting the promise of federal funds for Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail misses a crucial point. Nowhere is there mention of the long-term financial viability of such rail service, including projections of ridership volume, ticket prices, required investment in railcars, annual operating expenses, etc. Unless those touting this project have prepared a long-term financial blueprint, I fear their eagerness to capture federal tax dollars and inject short-term economic stimulus into our local economy may blind Florida taxpayers to potentially huge long-term financial obligations in the form of ongoing subsidies.
Amtrak's abysmal financial track record in the Northeast makes one doubt whether a similar rail system through a much less densely populated section of Florida can be self-sustaining. Taxpayers have a right to know what they are getting themselves in for.
Donald Wheeler, St. Petersburg
Try some common sense
I am a longtime advocate of railroads and light- rail streetcars, but I am astonished at the amount of money required to build a high-speed railroad to Orlando with no idea of how many people will ride it.
There is already a railroad between those two locations, and it would be much cheaper to run diesel locomotives and modern passenger cars on those tracks. This has been done very successfully in other states, and operated by Amtrak to avoid funding a large organization to manage the railroad. Such a train would also provide a convenient connection with other Amtrak trains.
High-speed trains are wonderful for long distances, and even I would enjoy a quick ride from Florida to Philadelphia. I think the so-called "transportation experts" in this area have been mesmerized with the concept of high-speed trains but have no idea of the practical side of railroading.
I hope that common sense will result in the use of a low-cost "starter" train before trying to find the money to fund such a colossal project.
Robert A. Stanton, Seminole
We need a popular revolt | Jan. 26, E.J. Dionne column
Voters have a say
E.J. Dionne cites the recent Supreme Court decision to empower corporations to buy politicians and then talks about alienated middle-class Americans and the recently unemployed.
Dionne partly blames puffed-up senators. He also points out some possible solutions proposed by two members of Congress to rein in the Supreme Court.
I propose a partial solution to all this. Stop electing the same career politicians over and over who have come to regard their position as permanent.
Charles L. Sodaro, Tarpon Springs
First Amendment is for all | Jan. 28, letter
It's for people
I will agree that the First Amendment is for all, but must add "people." A corporation is a business entity, not a person.
I find it doubtful that the employees of any large corporation will all have the same political views. I know I've worked places where I certainly did not hold the same views, political and otherwise, as the "people in power."
Dale Romano, St. Petersburg